“[We were] grown into language. After history we made cities and machines and gave them names. We didn’t speak so much of certain things. Language spoke us. The words that wanted to be city and machines had us speak them so they could be. When the humans came, they had no names and we made new words so they could have places in the world. They didn’t do as other things do. We spoke them into language. Language took them in. We were like hunters. We were like plants eating life. The humans made their town in our town like a star in a circle. They made their place like a filament in a flower. We spoke the name of their place. But we know it had another name. Sitting in a city like an organ in a body, like a tongue in a mouth. Before the humans came, we didn’t speak so much because we were like this one: who years ago was the girl who was hurt in darkness and ate what we given her. We were like her. You decide why we were like her. And why we were not like her. Why she’s like herself or is not…. Before the humans came, we didn’t speak. We’ve been like countless things. We’ve been like all things…. We were mute, we only dropped the stones we mentioned out of our mouths, opened our mouths and had the birds we described fly out. We were vectors. We were the birds eating in mindlessness. We were the girl in darkness, only knowing it when we weren’t anymore. We speak now. Or I do. And others do. You’ve never spoken before. You will. You will be able to say…I love you. You light me, warm me. You are suns. You have never spoken before.” ~’Spanish Dancer’, Embassytown.
In China Mieville’s, Embassytown, the Ariekei inhabit a world that humans have, in time, colonized. They discover that to speak the language of the Ariekei one must acquire much more than its syntax and speech patterns. In fact, human words do not signal anything recognizable to them. These sentient creatures have two “mouths” that produce sounds (i.e., language) simultaneously, and that possess the ability to alter organic matter. They cannot lie. To the Ariekei language is literal. So, for each to communicate and understand something not palpable, a figure of speech—a living simile—must be made. Thus, the protagonist, as a child, was brought to the indigenous in a dark cave, was purposefully hurt, and then offered food by a few native delegates. Accordingly, when they had need to describe a feeling or situation, they could, without lying say, “we were like the girl who was hurt in darkness and ate what we gave her.”
When God speaks creation, language communicates the essence of God. When God speaks and we hear or see the subsequent words on a page, the words are merely symbolic gesticulation, sounds that approximate at best a description of the resultant action, artifact. At worst, the words are opportunities for self-servers to speculate and twist and somehow come to conclusions that “make sense,” that can be mastered and controlled and lorded over others as if anyone spoken by God can truly, completely understand the Speaker.
When I muse and say that language communicates the essence of God, I do not mean that we become “little gods,” or that God spreads Divinity throughout all that God speaks—creates—as pantheism suggests. Rather, God’s language is expressive of more than we can comprehend, not merely sounds and symbols; God’s language is substance, organic, energy, force, truth…life. Abraham received a promise and believed. Abraham heard God without a written account of previous sayings or prophecies from Yahweh (as far as we know) and believed. We receive the essence of Jesus because of the work of the cross and my spirit witnesses to that Spirit—Who witnessed the life, death and resurrection of Jesus—that we can know the heart of God.
Still, we quarrel. We bicker and fight, sometimes to the death—of one another, and still more who never asked to participate—over words, written or passed down orally through the generations that can ever only approximate truth. These Symbols point in the direction of Life, yet can only begin to be understood via the witness of the very Spirit of God witnessing to my spirit. I do not say that the Holy Scripture, the blessed canon given us is less than inspired, unimportant or irrelevant. I emphatically believe the opposite.
The Word was with God. The Word was God. God spoke and made all things. God speaks life and truth in Spirit—truth through me, through you—by witness to the work of Jesus Christ. And the substance of this work of Jesus? Love. Action. Verb. So why destroy over earthly words that mean one thing one day and something entirely different on another? These are not the syntax of the Word; this is not the language of creation and life.
But, then, how can I hear if I am not listening?